Retail Merchandising: How Do You Sell Slow-Moving Stock? (A Chat with Christine Guillot)

Nothing makes retailers cringe more than slow-moving (or worse — “dead”) stock. Slow movers don’t just take up space, they tie up your capital and leave you with less funds to invest in your business.

There are plenty of ways to sell slow-moving or surplus inventory, and one of the most popular methods is to re-merchandise your stock.

To help you do that, we caught up with Christine Guillot, a retail consultant and the founder of Merchant Method. Retail merchandising is one of Christine’s specialties and in our chat, she shares invaluable insights into merchandise planning and execution.

Read on below to learn:

  • How to plan your retail merchandising and mitigate risk
  • What to do when you’re stuck with slow-moving inventory
  • The biggest mistakes retailers make when it comes to merchandising
  • Merchandising tactics to implement right now to ensure a successful holiday season

How can retailers sell slow-moving stock?

Christine shares 5 remerchandising tactics for dealing with slow-moving inventory. They include:

Re-merchandising tip #1: Pre-schedule your merchandising efforts

“Pre-schedule when your merchandise moves will take place, even before you know what your fast and slow-sellers are,” advises Christine.

“When you have a practice of pre-scheduling moves, you’re more likely to maintain a level of merchandising freshness. So whether you’re responding to slow-moving stock or fast-moving inventory, or even if you’re addressing a local trend, having that time identified in a schedule will allow you to be more responsive to the business versus being reactionary and scrambling to squeeze in re-merchandising.”

As for when to schedule your moves, Christine recommends giving items two to three weeks once they’re out of the box. This will give you enough time to measure item performance and understand the factors that might be causing a product to underperform.

Why do this? According to her, pre-scheduling your merchandising efforts and allocating manpower in advance can serve as insurance. Taking these steps means you automatically have a plan B for slow-movers, and you won’t end up not knowing what to do with them.

Re-merchandising tip #2: Consider complementary items

“Consider complementary items and merchandise accordingly. Slow movers could gain momentum if they’re an add-on to something that’s more desirable. A slow-mover might also benefit from the fact that it’s placed beside a top-performing item.”

Christine adds, “when you understand the areas of your store that are financially productive, when you understand what fixtures and displays attract a lot of attention and where last-minute add-ons take place, complementary merchandising becomes easier.”

Check out the example below, and notice how the retailer cleverly put together items that complemented each other to form an attractive retail display. See if you can pull off something similar in your store. Go through your slow-movers and then merchandise them together with best-sellers that complement their purpose or appearance.

Re-merchandising tip #3: Double- or triple-expose your merchandise

You want to get the products in more places to test the customers’ eyes, says Christine. That’s why she recommends that you “double- or even triple-expose your merchandise in a way that authentically aligns with the customer’s behavior.”

So, strive to put your products in additional areas in your location. You might even consider doing something more high-touch, such as a demonstration area if it makes sense for the product.

Re-merchandising tip #4: Turn your employees into mobile merchandising statements

Make selling a slow-mover a weekend-long or a week-long focus and be sure to involve your sales team. According to Christine, your sales team can be utilized as “mobile merchandising statements that help move your products.

“Here’s an example: Say you lead a store that sells kitchen and entertaining merchandise. You might have these seasonal print aprons that are slow-moving. Your week-long focus could be around hosting a dinner party, and maybe your employees could wear those seasonally focused aprons all week long while on the sales floor.”

“Doing this gives a reason and an occasion to speak about a particular item more,” she adds.

Re-merchandising tip #5: Have a different merchandising strategy for each location

If you’re running multiple stores, Christine recommends changing up your merchandising strategy for each store. Doing so can help minimize risk later in the item’s lifecycle.  

“If we took the seasonal apron, for example, you might have stores in climates that are attributed as hot stores  that can support a warm weather themed statement longer.”

“It would really benefit you to think through each store’s attributes and how you can utilize them later in the product’s lifecycle to vary the merchandising strategy.”

Key takeaways:

  • Schedule your re-merchandising efforts even before you know what your slow-movers are. This will help you be more responsive versus being reactionary and scrambling last minute.
  • Merchandise slow-movers together with bestsellers.
  • Give people more opportunities to discover the merchandise by putting them in more areas in the store.
  • Encourage your sales team to creatively promote your slow-movers. Make it a weekend-long or even week-long focus for them.
  • If you have multiple stores, consider each location’s unique attributes and see how you can use them in your merchandising.

What are the biggest merchandising mistakes retailers make?

Christine also shared some of the top retail merchandising blunders that could lead to lower sales. Read through them below and ensure that you’re not committing any of these mistakes in your store.

Merchandising mistake #1: Taking a “set in and forget it” approach

According to Christine, having a “set it and forget it” mindset is the top merchandising mistake that retailers make.

“Does a particular display need to be straightened often because customers are looking through it a lot? If they’re touching it a lot, you need to give it attention. On the flip side, has a display been gathering dust? If so, is it because customers are overlooking it, or could it be the case of employees neglecting the display?”

“Whatever the case, it’s important to pay attention to what’s getting touched and what’s getting ignored, and then take action accordingly. Just because a display is all set up, doesn’t mean you can forget about it.”

Merchandising mistake #2: Not re-merchandising often enough

This applies to both slow-movers and bestsellers, says Christine.

“Sometimes taking a best-selling basic item and putting it in a new location can feel make it feel like a brand new item to someone who’s a loyal customer. The same goes for slow-moving stock. When you re-merchandise often, you give customers reasons to come back and explore.”

Key takeaways:

  • Ditch the “set it and forget it” approach to merchandising.
  • You need to pay close attention to your displays particularly if they’re always getting messed up or if they’re gathering dust.

What merchandising steps should retailers take right now to prepare for the holiday season?

Christine outlines 3 pre-season merchandising steps to ensure that you’re not dealing with too much dead stock during the holidays. Check them out below and take action sooner rather than later!

Step 1: Get inspired

“Gathering inspiration is really the most romantic, sexy part of merchandising,” shares Christine.

“This is the stage when you ask the question: what experience do you want to deliver during the holiday season and how do you want to create that experience?”

“So there tends to be a lot of creative research, either online through places like Pinterest, or in-person, through competitive shopping. This is the time to dream big. You should be partnering with buying teams and marketing teams to create a cohesive, comprehensive merchandising strategy.”

Step 2: Plan your merchandising

“After your dream big, you need to make your plans,” she says.

At this stage, retailers usually start creating a sales floor map, and that’s critical. But Christine also stressed the importance of creating a stockroom map.

“Remember, you’ll be dealing with increased traffic and transactions, which means the floors need to be re-stocked more frequently. If you can create a stockroom map, that will promote efficient re-stocking.”

Christine recommends thinking through your planned sales and top-performing items. Pre-identify the products you expect to move through most often and determine how much inventory depth you’re expecting to re-stock the store with.

Doing this “allows you to map out shelf locations and the shelf space you’ll need by category, or even by item. If there are certain things that are going to be marketed or promoted heavily, those are the items that you want in very accessible locations. The last thing you want is to go way back into the stockroom and get a ladder to access items that only pop during the holiday season.”

In addition to mapping out your sales floor and stockroom, be sure to take the time to create a schedule and determine the resources you’ll need to execute your holiday plans.

“Do you need material resources, monetary resources, or more staffing? During this planning phase, create smart goals and make timelines. I’m a huge proponent of pre-planning and in-season reviews. This is the time to schedule in-season reviews of execution and when you’ll course correct if you need to.”

Step 3: Mitigate risk

You’ll want to mitigate risks pre-season, says Christine. The main thing to do at this stage is to track your inventory.

“Will you receive your seasonal merchandise when you expect to, or are there unforeseen delays? Have you been selling more or less of certain items in the months leading up to the holidays? If so, you might want to make adjustments to your orders.”

“Knowing these things ahead of time is critical. When your create your display and that beautiful merchandising, you need to have the inventory to support it.”

Key takeaways:

  • If you haven’t done so yet, start finding holiday merchandising inspiration. Check out the Pinterest boards we mentioned above, or do some in-person explorations of other retail locations.
  • When planning your holiday campaigns be sure to map out your sales floor and stockroom.
  • Schedule merchandising reviews in advance so you’ll know when to evaluate your campaigns and change course if necessary.
  • Keep a close eye on your inventory leading up to the holidays and use that data to plan your orders and displays. This will help you mitigate risk!

Bottom line: You don’t have to sweat the slow-movers

The keys to having a successful remerchandising strategy are to plan for it in advance and ensure that your sales team is on board. Don’t wait until you have a bunch of slow-movers on the floor before crafting a game plan. Think about your strategy now, and keep your associates in the loop. That way, when you do have to deal with slow-sellers, you can jump into action right away.

And if remerchandising doesn’t work, recognize that you still have plenty of chances to move your inventory. Don’t sweat the surplus stock. Find ways to turn slow-movers into profitable opportunities instead.

 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.